Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I'm trying not to be ...

… but still, I'm pissed.

My oldest friend hates her job. She's battling with both her troubled daughter and her daughter's school. She somehow came down with MRSA, and that's most emphatically not fun. She hasn't made any friends in her 2 1/2 years in California, so her support system is only a cousin who lives 90 minutes away (and that's in good traffic).

So I do things to try to cheer her up. She is (shudder) an unabashed Fanilow so I sent her a link to an MSNBC story about how good Manilow's Broadway show is. Days went by before she clicked on the fucking thing.

Today was Lincoln's birthday. She's an Abe-o-phile, so I sent her a nice little Punchbowl "birthday" e-card to brighten her day. She still hasn't clicked on the link.

She sent me a two-sentence email about how she's interviewing for a new/different job at Cedars and closed it with, "And how are you doing?"

I didn't answer. Why bother? I mean, how do I know she'd bother looking at my reply?

I understand depression and ruts. I'm in one myself -- getting fatter and fatter and sleeping more and eating more instead of working out and cleaning my pigsty. I am self-aware enough to know what's behind it.* I'm working on it.

So I'm not judging her for landing in a dark place. I am, however, judging her for taking me so completely for granted. You can't, on the one hand, complain about being alone and isolated and then, on the other hand, disregard acts of kindness.

Oh, well. She and I have been doing this dance for half a century. Neither of us is going to change, so I'd better just get my mind around it and accept her as she is. But I'm going to give myself some time to cool off. I deserve that.

*The ongoing agita over my mother's estate and worry about my professional future. Oh yeah, and I have been sick.

31 Days of Oscar Blogathon: 1940 Best Actor

The First Time Mr. Lincoln

was in the House


The 13th annual Academy Awards dinner was held on a Thursday night in late February, 1941 at Los Angeles' Biltmore Hotel. That year, the Best Actor nominees included four men who would become film immortals. The movies they were nominated for were major hits and remain popular today: 

• Charlie Chaplin, The Great Dictator (his only acting nomination)

• Henry Fonda, The Grapes of Wrath

• Laurence Olivier, Rebecca

• James Stewart, The Philadelphia Story

The fifth member of this auspicious group 
is less well known,
and the movie he was honored for 
isn't a cable staple, 
but his role is unforgettable

Raymond Massey was born in Toronto and yet (like the UK's  Daniel Day Lewis) he was tapped to play our greatest President in Abe Lincoln in Illinois.

After distinguishing himself in World War I -- he was wounded while serving in France as a member the Canadian infantry -- Massey went home to Ontario. There he joined the family business, selling farm equipment. That may sound like a rural, Lincolnesque endeavor that kept him in contact with the land, but it wasn't. Massey-Harris was profitable and well established in both North America and England, and eventually it was purchased by AGCO.

Relocated in England for agribusiness, Massey discovered that had the soul of an artist, not a salesman, and was irresistibly drawn to the stage. His greatest London success came in the WWI drama The Silver Tassie. Massey felt a tremendous affinity for the material and eventually both appeared in and directed the West End production. In the 1930s, he moved to film, starring as Sherlock Holmes in The Speckled Band and playing the evil Chauvelin opposite Leslie Howard in The Scarlett Pimpernel

Then he returned to the stage, starring in the Broadway production of Robert Sherwood's Pulitzer Prize winning play, Abe Lincoln in Illinois. Massey recreated his triumphant performance on screen, as well. Humble and honest, warm and wise, a voracious reader and charming storyteller, Massey creates an indelible portrait. In this homely, unpretentious man we see the all the makings of the legend.

The movie begins with Lincoln on the Sangamon River, en route to New Orleans with a load of livestock. A mishap lands him literally at the feet of Ann Rutledge, the daughter of a New Salem tavern owner. He likes the town and really likes the girl, and decides this tiny Illinois town is where he'll put down roots. 

The tentative Lincoln-Rutledge romance ends tragically, and his final declaration of love is one of Massey's most moving scenes. Whoever would have thought Abe could be this romantic? (I prefer to ignore that today's historians downplay the great man's relationship with Ann because their romance as depicted here is so touching.)

His New Salem neighbors prevail upon Lincoln to run for the State Assembly, which brings him to the capital in Springfield. The sets are very realistic. I have been to Springfield many times and recognize the windowseat in the poster from the law office Lincoln shared with Billy Herndon.

After his term ends, he begins studying law, and courting Mary Todd (Ruth Gordon, in her film debut). The wealthy, socially prominent Todds see this as a mismatch, but headstrong, ambitious Mary  sees unlimited potential in her beau and they wed despite her family's objections. With Mary's hand firmly in the small of his back, propelling him forward, Lincoln's star rises. Massey really sinks his teeth into the actual speeches of the Lincoln-Douglas debate. As the movie ends, President-elect Lincoln poignantly addresses the people of Springfield, saying he does "not know when, or whether ever" he shall return to his beloved Illinois. It's a moving moment, true to Lincoln's actual impromptu address at the depot, delivered beautifully by Massey.

This film leaves off near where Spielberg's begins.
Four years have elapsed, his first term has just ended and the Lincoln now showing in theaters has just won re-election. Daniel Day Lewis' portrayal is wearier, cagier and tougher than Massey's. But that makes sense, for now he is a Commander in Chief who has been severely tested by the issues of slavery and war.

And the 1940 Best Actor Oscar went to ... James Stewart.
I am a massive fan of Stewart's and love The Philadelphia Story, but it is undeniably the lightest of the five performances nominated that year. 

While creatively this was his career high water mark, Raymond Massey went on to appear in more major Hollywood films, including Arsenic and Old Lace. He also rejoined the Canadian Army during World War II. He reprised the role of Lincoln several times -- in stage revivals of the Sherwood play, as well as on the big screen in How the West Was Won (1962) and the small screen in The Day Lincoln Was Shot (1956). Late in his career, he found great success with TV audiences as Dr. Gillespie, mentor to Dr. Kildare (Richard Chamberlain).

And here's a little gossip for you: Remember that Ruth Gordon was Mary to Massey's Abe? That gave her a ringside seat to Massey's rancorous divorce from actress Adrienne Allen, which took place shortly after filming Abe Lincoln in Illinois wrapped. Both Massey and Allen were represented by a lawyer named Whitney -- husband and wife attorneys on opposing sides of the case. After the Massey divorce was final, the Whitneys split, too. Adrienne married her attorney, William Whitney. Raymond wed his attorney, Dorothy Whitney, his wife until her death. This real-life tale so fascinated and amused Gordon that she and her husband, Garson Kanin, used it as the inspiration for their script, Adam's Rib.

About the Blogathon:
"Aurora of Once Upon a Screen, Paula of Paula's Cinema Club and Kellee  of Outspoken and Freckled are hosting a new, mammoth blogathon event that coincides with Turner Classic Movies’ 31 Days of Oscar, February 1 to March 3, 2013. It’ll be a month filled with fabulous tales and screen wonders." I encourage you to check out other entries.


Containing Archie

Remember Archie Bunker, the Los Angeles lunkhead my oldest friend was desperately attracted to last year? Well, he's the reason why I was pulling for her NOT to get the job she wanted at Cedars Sinai Hospital.

I stalk him on Facebook and know he's been in and out of Cedars a lot lately. Problems with his feet, complications from his diabetes ... He's not a well man, can't work and is just very sour. All I need is for my unhappy and vulnerable friend to happen to run into him and get sucked in.

He has her number. He "friended" her on Facebook. He could call her or post a message (um, like "Happy Birthday" or "Merry Christmas") but hasn't. He hasn't done even the minimum. He doesn't want her. I get it. She's finally gotten it, too.

I don't want any backsliding. So yes, every time she told me about her next interview at Cedars, I was crossing my fingers when I wished her well because I really didn't want her to get it. Now that she's been eliminated, I feel as guilty as I do relieved.

Why am I laying on the sofa?

I took today off work. It didn't seem worth the commute since we aren't that busy and I'm battling a pernicious headache. Probably the result of my trip to the doctor yesterday. She gave me two vaccinations and an inhaler. That's a big influx of meds into this old bod.

What were the vaccines? A flu shot (a little after the fact, I'd say) and a tetanus shot. So for as crappy as I feel today, I'm grateful that my doctor made the connection between my chronic cough and all the years that have passed between my tetanus shot. For, unbeknownst to me, the tetanus shot is good against more than just protecting me in case I step on a rusty nail at Girl Scout camp. It also helps prevent pertusis! She also gave me an inhaler to use at 8:00 -- both AM and PM.

I've been coughing since I returned from Key West on January 1. That's enough! And hopefully, beginning later today, I'll be better.

Big shoes to fill

No, make that MASSIVE shoes to fill. Poor President Obama is delivering his State of the Union speech tonight on the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth. I mean, REALLY! How can any President compete with the memory of the man who said:

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

The only one who could possible compete with Lincoln's oratory is Lincoln, who also said:

"It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." (That's the Library of Congress' handwritten Gettysburg Address you see here.)

I just love the resurgence Abe is enjoying -- on the best seller list, on TV and in the movie theater. I'm proud that he's from Illinois and I've been able to walk where he walked. He totally rocks.